Ant Music to Winemakers' Ears

Red fire ants are good for Texas wines. Even better for Texans' whines.

Today's Wall Street Journal has a front-page piece describing how a double-barreled pesticide assault, in tandem with a series of Texas droughts, has decimated the Lone Star fire ant population. Who cares? Certainly not Montgomery rancher Robert McGehee, who had to strip in the middle of his cow pasture to keep from being eaten alive after his hay-cutter struck a fire ant mound. But some scientists and ranchers are questioning the assault on fire ants, stating that they might be helpful in keeping pests such as boll weevils, ticks, chiggers--even fleas--in check. Fire ants may even help wine taste better. Winegrower Paul Bonarrigo of Messina Hof Winery in Bryan, producer of some of Texas' best wines , says in the article that fire ants improve vineyard vigor. Business vigor too: "It's increased worker productivity by 50 percent," he says, "because nobody stands around anymore." --Mark Stuertz

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